The Electoral Commission (EC) on Monday started consultation of strategic countries towards the operationalization of the Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA) 2006 (Act699), which gives Ghanaians in the Diaspora the right to vote from abroad.
The EC ROPAA Committee in fulfilment of its mandate, will engage the Senegalese Electoral Commission, Ghanaian Community in Senegal and other strategic institutions in Senegal to share ideas and solicit their views towards implementation of the law.
An eight-member EC ROPAA Committee team led by Dr Bossman Eric Asare, EC Deputy Chairman, in-charge of Corporate Services; Mr Samuel Tettey, Deputy Chairman, in Charge of Operations; and Professor Ransford Gyampo of the University of Ghana.
Others are: Mr John Boadu, General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), representing the ruling party; Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Mr Kofi Akpaloo, Founder and Leader of the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG), representing the other minority parties without representation in Parliament.
The rest are: Mr Christian Owusu-Parry, ROPAA Committee Secretary and Mrs Sylvia Annor of the EC.
However, the Reverend Dr Ernest Adu Gyamfi of the National Peace Council and Dr Kojo Asante of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana could not attend the Dakar ROPAA Consultation.
Dr Bossman Asare told the Ghana News Agency in an interview at Dakar, Senegal that the Act charges the EC with the responsibility to make regulations for the implementation of the ROPAA.
"In complying with the obligation imposed by the Act, the Commission set up a sub-committee to make recommendations on how best the ROPAA can be implemented," he said.
He said the Committee organised regional consultation programmes with local stakeholders and civil society organisations, political parties' representations, traditional authorities, religious leaders, and the media.
Meanwhile, Mrs Jean Mensa, EC Chairperson had explained that, the implementation of ROPAA requires that the Commission puts together regulations, in the form of a Constitutional Instrument (CI), to regulate the registration of voters and the conduct of elections in foreign countries.
Mrs Mensa said at the end of the work of the ROPAA Consultative and Implementation Committee, a technical group would be constituted to draft regulations for external voting, then it would eventually be passed into a CI by Parliament by the close of December 2019.
The EC Chairperson said ROPAA, today gives the Ghanaian citizens living outside the country the right to be registered as a voter and to vote where he/she lives.
"It has been over 12 years since ROPAA became law, but Ghanaian citizens living outside the country are yet to benefit from the opportunities presented by ROPAA.
"This is because of the obvious challenges that are likely to be encountered in the implementation of ROPAA," she said.
Mrs Mensa recalled that in the past, attempts were made by the EC, under the leadership of Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan to find a way of implementing ROPAA that would be acceptable to all stakeholders, by setting up a committee in 2011 to make recommendations for the ROPAA implementation.
"Eight years on, the right to be registered as a voter and to vote in public elections and referenda remains elusive to the Ghanaian living outside Ghana," she noted.
Mrs Mensa said a lot has changed since the Committee set up by Dr Afari-Gyan presented its report; stating that, it was necessary that in trying to implement ROPAA now, stakeholders take into account the new developments in Ghana's electoral process.
It would be recalled that, following advocacy by interest groups, a Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2006, the Representative of the People Amendment Bill (ROPAB) to amend the representation of the People's Law of 1992 PDNC Law 284.
The PNDC Law 284 did not make provision for Ghanaian citizens other than persons working in Ghana's diplomatic missions, persons working with international organisations of which Ghana is a member and Ghanaian students on Government scholarship, to be registered in the countries where they reside.
The ROPAA, Act 2006, ACT 699 was therefore passed to extend the right of Ghanaians living outside the country to participate in voting in public elections and referenda.
By Francis Ameyibor, GNA Special Correspondent, Dakar, Senegal